throgs neck: a poem

Well, it seems that I’ve written a poem for the first time since 1997. While fourteen years between poems might not seem like much for some, for someone who wrote poetry all through college, has an MA in Creative Writing, and two Academy of American Poets Prizes, fourteen years is a really long time.

This one came to me as Wendy, Hydan, and I drove north from Bear, DE, to Boston last Monday evening, just before a stop-over in Waterbury, CT. I wrote most of it in my mind before having time to put it down Word a few days ago. For those not familiar with T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, the Madame in the poem is a reference to:

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. (lines 43-46)

As with all my most recent poems (if you can call 1995-1997 recent) this one is meant to be read aloud. Comments and thoughts, as always, are welcome.

Throgs Neck

Bear to Boston—barely leaving before
Sunset, our shirts, socks, slacks, blue jeans—Yes,
Take that pair—laid bear before us,
Now folded, now packed, now between
Here and us and there lay the Connecticut Turnpike.
What’s that you say? I may be a little bit crazy.
Yes, Six-Eighty-Four to Eighty-Four. Yes, Brewster.
Yes, picnics at that rest stop that June or July—
Humus, sandwiches, salad. Cold beverages.
But, Madame GPS (that famous clairvoyant)
You see, it’s all in her cards, plotting points,
Rooting routes, orienting bearings. Plus
(And she knows this, of course) Ninety-Five
Ushers us by crusty consonants—
Jerome, Hutchinson, Bruckner, Cross Bronx,
Throgs Neck—that mouthful mono-syllab.
I say Throgs Neck, aloud, slithering the thr
On to an overly oblong o, gulping the gs,
Decapitating it with the terse truncation of neck.
Fuck, I say: Madame blares traffic
So and so miles ahead so many miles long.
Warning lights. Bitch, I say (though I should’ve known
What with her being sick and all). And then
It’s gone. Blissfully. That bitch.
That tease. That high roller. I bear
The car—a memory of this place.
The buildings. The signage. The signifiers.
I am 8 or 10 or 16 driving north to—
Where would we be driving north? Where
Am I sitting? In the back? Maybe south. But, no,
The bearing is north. Northeast. From the southwest.
Breaths from the back seat. I hear slight
Shifts of position. Our son, barely four months,
Bewilderingly beautiful, my wife and he, as she bears
Him to her breast, mouth wide, eyes wide,
Wider, widening, before us and hereafter.

Boston, April 9, 2011

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2 Responses to throgs neck: a poem

  1. Beautiful! This should be published. I had no idea you won two Academy of American Poets prizes. It seems as if your new baby has been a major catalyst for your leap back into poetry. Keep going, I think it will only get better. A truly inspiring poem.

    Chrissy

  2. Bill says:

    Thanks, Christine!

    Well, he did at that moment, at least. Poetry was always associated with some sort of mindset that found me at moments intensely focused on particular spaces and ideas. Back in the day (when I was your age) I found more time for that kind of experience than I did after my MA degree (when I started teaching freshman comp and all I did was grade). But, who knows what will happen in the future. . . .

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